I’m a sucker for any kind of mystery and I love gardens and gardening, so it stands to reason I would seek out books with a bit of both. I’ve read a few over the years; here’s a selection of some of them:
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Still one of my favourite books and a big influence on my writing even now. I love the descriptions of the garden of the past, and the happiness Tom finds there, and the reveal still has the power to send shivers up my spine. I also love the way she manages to write a children’s novel without ever talking down – the language and themes are remarkably grown up.
The Savage Garden by Mark Mills
A fascinating exploration of a Renaissance garden in Tuscany, and the macabre hidden message it sends out via statues, grottoes and classical inscriptions. I found it hard to put down. It’s billed as a murder mystery, but really has more in common with Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, except that it’s less hysterical and much, much better written.
The Serpent in the Garden by Janet Gleeson
Overall this was a little too cosy for my tastes, but I enjoyed the descriptions of the 18th century garden, the hot house and the mystic art of growing pineapples! There’s also a nod to the work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. A shame that the plot, involving a stolen emerald necklace, didn’t entirely hold up to scrutiny.
Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
Another favourite, with a wonderful sense of otherworldliness and a plot that involves telepathy, white witchcraft and herbalism. In places it’s desperately sad, but the ‘fairy godmother’ saves the day. A beautiful and absorbing read.
The Sea Garden by Sam Llewellyn
A recent find, set in a fascinating 18th century garden by the sea (on an island off the Cornish coast, no less), where the new owner finds a human skull in a flower bed and sets off to discover who it once belonged to. Again, this is less murder mystery and more a sprawling family saga involving all sorts of skeletons in all sorts of closets, and I really enjoyed it.